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Friday, December 01, 2006

Podcasting's 15 Minutes Almost Up

Podcasting probably will never become an "impact media" like online video or satellite radio, and deservedly so. According to the most recent survey from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, only 1 percent of Internet users download a podcast on a given day. Only 12 percent of webizens have ever downloaded a podcast for later listening, according to BusinessWeek. Podcasting technology has been around for a decade, and just because the "Pod" name was put on it a few years ago doesn't mean it will be any more successful. Listening to recorded discussions is good for when you are traveling, the subject is extremely compelling, or you are bored out of your skull. If you have an iPod, most of the time you are going to listen to music. If you are online, you aren't going to divide your attention between the screen and your ears because it takes too much of your brain to digest a podcast. Music is a nice background noise that doesn't prevent you from "working." The multitude of independent podcasters will scratch and claw for the occasional hour when people want to hear about a niche of their interest, but podcasting will have about the same long term business impact as e-books.

By John Gartner at 01:42 PM | Comments (23)

(23) Thoughts on Podcasting's 15 Minutes Almost Up

I think you overstate the case against podcasting. Podcasting will never replace music, but it can succeed to the extent that talk radio has succeeded. And it's only going to get easier for people to download podcasts and take it with them.

To my eyes, there's pretty impressive growth for podcasting. Today, 12% of Internet users have downloaded a podcast for later listening. I believe it was 7% in February or March.

Finally, the Business Week article in question seems to have begun with a thesis (Podcasting isn't as hot as everyone thinks), then massaged the data to support that thesis. Many facts that I consider positive for podcasting's future are portrayed as negative in the Business Week article.

Podcasting's future is vastly more bright than satellite radio's, in my opinion, but that's another topic.

Comments by David Brazeal : Friday, December 01, 2006 at 04:12 PM

To say that Podcasting will not be an “impact media” like Satellite Radio is quite amusing given that more people are listening to podcasts than Satellite Radio already. had over 13 Million Unique IP addresses download Podcasts in the month of September alone - more than the total number of subsribers for both Satellite services combined.

Also Podcasting is more than just Audio – it is both Audio and Video. Per the technology being around for 10 years – that is just incorrect. Podcasting is about time shifting and subscribing to shows. What you want, when you want it, where you want it. The final pieces of the puzzle did not come together until 2004. So Podcasting is just a little over two years old – not Ten Years old. And as I mentioned earlier – it already has a larger audience than Satellite Radio and will continue to out shine Satellite Radio for the foreseeable future.

To say podcasting will have the same long term business impact as e-books helps reinforce the rest of the articles lack of understanding of podcasting. Hopefully you will take a little time to really look into podcasting as it is quite obvious you have yet to do that.

Best Regards,

Rob Walch
Co-author of “Tricks of the Podcasting Masters”

Comments by Rob Walch : Friday, December 01, 2006 at 07:03 PM

It kind of reminds me of an old Gillmor Gang circa 2004 where podcasting was compared to CB radio. Not true then, not true now.

Nice points, Rob.

Comments by Tim Elliott : Friday, December 01, 2006 at 08:49 PM

Well, this is the first time I have been to this site. Let me assure you it will be the last. If you post articles that are so incorrect, I would be wasting my time having any faith in advice offered here.

Comments by sd : Friday, December 01, 2006 at 09:43 PM

Man oh man - another site that repeats the spin from the radio industry. The Pew study was one of many. Most show podcasting with a much larger audience. The Pew study's big flaw is that it asked the wrong question. The question is not how many people DOWNLOADED a podcast, but rather how many LISTENED to a podcast. Had that been the question, things would be different.

By the way - the statement that podcasting has been around for a decade shows exactly how little you really know about your subject matter.

Let me guess, back in the 90s you ran those "The Internet is a fad" stories too right?

Comments by Scott Bourne : Friday, December 01, 2006 at 10:08 PM

Oh really. Is that what 'Buisness Week' said. I can't say I've heard of them. Sloppy writing. Feeble observations.

Comments by Mother Tongue : Saturday, December 02, 2006 at 12:38 AM

John, how does it feel to be an ill-informed claqueur for radio - a desperate, dying business?

Rob and Scott make valid points about what you have mis-understood, mis-interpreted or deliberately ignored.

Have you listened to anything OTHER THAN discussion podcasts? If you have an interest, there's a podcast about it. You ought to do a little digging.

You cite (inaccurately, I believe) the present size of the podcasting audience and then, mysteriously and with no verifiable proof, conjure up from those numbers the notion podcasting has stopped growing.

Let's re-write your last paragraph, replace "podcast" or "podcasting" with "online pundits" and "online punditry," and see how it fits, shall we?

"The multitude of online pundits will scratch and claw for the occasional hour when people want to read about a niche of their interest, but online punditry will have about the same long term business impact as e-books."

Hmmmmmmmm - amazing, how well it flips, isn't it?

Comments by Murphy : Saturday, December 02, 2006 at 04:52 PM

What an idiotic post.

Do you think news shows will never replace rock concerts?

Why would you compare the two.

Podcasting is great, and getting greater. I bet less than 1 percent of Internet users ski, but skiing is here to stay.

This post is pure nonsense.

Comments by Medya Creeteek : Saturday, December 02, 2006 at 05:31 PM

'If you have an iPod, most of the time you are going to listen to music. If you are online, you aren't going to divide your attention between the screen and your ears because it takes too much of your brain to digest a podcast. Music is a nice background noise that doesn't prevent you from "working."'

Umm ... you ARE aware that many podcasts are, in fact, MUSIC oriented podcasts, aren't you? Surely you're not that uninformed.

Just in case, would be a really good place for you to start.

Comments by Warren : Saturday, December 02, 2006 at 07:04 PM

I read the Business Week article and I am glad it came out. There's always a buzz about something and it was podcasting awhile back. But most content is not compelling enough for people to go to the bother of downloading and listening to it. YouTube is more popular because it better fits the way most people want to consume media -- easily searchable and viewable. People do not necessarily want to have to listen to a 30-minute podcast if all they want is a quote or two. Or if they want to check out a band or a song, it's easier to go to MySpace, click on the song, and they will know in about 30 seconds whether it appeals to you. Podcasting is fine if you do want to listen to something in your car, but for short attention span audiences, it's usually not ideal. If a radio or television show already has a significant audience, then podcasting is a way to timeshift. But if people don't already know you exist, they may find other ways to discover content online. I think all the Business Week article did was point out that most people aren't really looking for podcasts to download. Creating a podcast does not guarantee you will have an audience for it. For some content it may not even be the best delivery format.

Comments by Suzanne Lainson : Saturday, December 02, 2006 at 07:43 PM

Good spin of the data that Business Week repurposed for another buy-me headline.

Are you podcasting this post?

Comments by Bernie Goldbach : Sunday, December 03, 2006 at 01:26 AM

The podcast /craze/ might have had its 15 minutes, but it's unlikely to go away as a media delivery system.

The technology has been around a lot longer than 2 years, even if the components weren't neatly packaged as a unit before around 2004.

All the necessary parts of the RSS side were around in the "push" tech flurry in the late 1990's; the iPod came out in 2001, though there were plenty of portable media players before that. The time-shifted download idea isn't exactly new in principle - think videotapes.

I think Lucas Gonze captured some important points about the role of standards in the explosion of podcasting in
- I'd add that the sheer hype in the A-list blogosphere in 2004 was a very significant factor.

Comments by Danny : Sunday, December 03, 2006 at 04:48 AM

Develop quality programs and forget the jargon. Ondemand everywhere is the key, downloading locally, listening to a stream or taking it with you - it is all about user choice and control.

Comments by RD : Sunday, December 03, 2006 at 05:33 AM

Podcasting technology has NOT been available for more than two years, for any definition of "technology" that takes into account feasibility and not just what's possible in a research lab. Podcasting required:

- High bandwidth and storage - With Libsyn I can run an unlimited-download podcast for $5-10/mth. 10 years ago, a service like that would easily have cost over > $1000/mth. Forget the long tail when only megacorps can afford to use it.
- High bandwidth clients - With metered 56k access, you'd have to pay for acess all day long to grab enough podcasts.
- Feeds/syndication, which didn't really take off outside of a very small niche group until 2003-2004
- MP3 player penetration. The IPod came out in 2001 and begun to reach some critical mass in 2003.

It's true that one thing could have been done earlier, and that is for the radio/TV companies to release downloadable MP3s instead of streaming.

BTW One of the closest things to a podcast years ago was Geeks In Space, the slashdot audio program. Even among tech-savvy users, it never really took off because of all the missing elements.

Whatever name it is called, the concept of podcasting will continue to flourish and will become even bigger when the device manufacturers get their act together and provide specialised interfaces to support podcasting (MS missed a big opportunity with the Zune, but Apple and others won't).

Comments by Michael Mahemoff : Sunday, December 03, 2006 at 08:30 AM

I also think podcasts are here to stay and your hypothesis is way off. There might be some changes that haven't been dreamed up yet but I think the content, quality, and delivery of podcasts will only continue to improve.

Sounds like you'd be surprised how many adults listen to talk radio instead of music radio.

And podcasts are only good for traveling? It's not like the majority of folks commute (i.e. travel) a good distance every day.

Comments by Jackson : Sunday, December 03, 2006 at 09:15 AM

It's about individual programs, not podcasting as a vehicle. High quality will hang on, poor or inconsistent quality will die. No different from rock bands, television or radio.

As a vehicle, it's simply too convenient a way to take information with you and listen when you want. It's the RSS-subscription factor. People want that power -- look at Tivo and how many satellite companies now offer digital video recording...

Comments by Brandon : Sunday, December 03, 2006 at 04:10 PM

People have been able to download audio and video files for years. I think the term "podcasting" put too much emphasis on technology and not enough emphasis on content. Just because people can do it does not necessarily mean there is an audience for their podcasts. People who already listen to NPR may welcome being able to replay it at their convenience. But that doesn't mean they are interested in random podcasts.

Comments by Suzanne Lainson : Sunday, December 03, 2006 at 07:08 PM

Thanks to everyone for chiming in. Podcasting -- or downloadable MP3s as we called it back in the 90's -- has a role, but I just don't see it as a substantial business or mass media play. Stay tuned as I'll be providing more data to substantiate my opinion.

Comments by John Gartner : Monday, December 04, 2006 at 10:42 AM


Actually your last time visiting mshift was yesterday and you have already violated your pact to never visit the site again... interesting.


Comments by Jason : Monday, December 04, 2006 at 10:53 AM

Well Heck - I did not realize you had Data. That changes everything.

It is not about just downloading MP3 files - it is much more. All the Pie Charts and graphs you present will not change the fact you do not understand this medium and the ease of use for the listener and the creator.

Podcasting is about making things easy not just for the content provider (ie Streaming) but rather about making things easy for both those creating the content and those consuming the content.

But please make sure to put that data into fancy pie charts and graphs - as that will make your point of view seem much more sound.

Rob W

Comments by Rob Walch : Monday, December 04, 2006 at 04:21 PM

So there is no market for a content delivery mechanism that allows content to be easily time shifted? Someone call Tevo and let them know.

So there is no market for a device that makes the content easily portable? Someone let Sony know the Walkman will never sell.

So there is no market for a medium that allows people to create there own content? Someone let Al Gore know this interweb thingy will not get off the ground.

A technology that allows you to do all three of these things at once is surely doomed.

Comments by Anthony Miran : Monday, December 04, 2006 at 04:56 PM

I fully agree with Rob Walsh to characterize satellite radio as an "impact medium" while putting down podcasting is nonsensical. As Rob said, podcasts are downloaded by the millions for little to no cost to the user or content provider and has grown exponentially in the last year to 2 years. Satellite radio conversely has struggled with plummeting stocks, losses of $500 million per quarter, and significantly declining subscription rates over the past year.

You throw out that only 12% percent of web users have ever downloaded a podcast, Satellite radio would kill to get 12 percent of the traditional radio audience! In fact, if satellite radio ever approached 12% of the audience of free radio, I'd absolutely call them an impact medium.

Comments by BGN : Tuesday, December 05, 2006 at 10:20 AM

I remember using portable video systems in the mid-70s in an effort to encourage people to produce and disseminate their own "alternative TV". Those working in traditional broadcast TV repeatedly told us: "This small-format video thing will never replace proper TV studios and film".

This utterly ridiculous lead article reminds me of those times. Of course, video never DID take on, did it - so I guess the wonderful new medium called Podcasting must be similarly doomed!

BTW - Podcasting technology has been around for a decade? That's news to me! Great research, guys.

Comments by Alan Brill : Monday, January 15, 2007 at 04:02 PM

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